GOD PREFERS KIND ATHEISTS OVER HATEFUL CHRISTIANS – Sign outside Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Portland, Oregon
This sign, which went viral on the Internet, was mentioned on the Huffington Post where it was called a “controversial” message, and on conservative site The Blaze, which characterized it as a “bold statement.”
What is it that’s bold or controversial about it?
Tom Tate, the pastor at Rose City Park, noted that it’s a biblical message exemplified in the parable of the Good Samaritan.
It’s more than that.
It’s the underlying concept in the Message of the Christ as written throughout the Gospels and the New Testament. I quoted a bit of Peter’s message to Cornelius in my Easter article (It’s a Heart Thing), but I think it’s worth repeating –
Then Peter began to speak to them: I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. - ACTS 10:34-35
Those who still try to make Christianity into an exclusive club fail to see the similarity between their position and that of the scribes and Pharisees of the Gospels who tried desperately to find a way to limit the radical inclusivity of Jesus’ ministry. They no doubt see themselves as the defenders of the faith, just as those whom the Gospel writers depict as opposing Jesus did. They were wrong, then and now.
Mr. Tate noted on the UMCPortal – “It has touched a reservoir for people in a way that is very surprising for me.”
Why is he surprised?
People of faith have increasingly discarded the doctrine and dogma of “traditional” Christianity. That doesn’t mean that we’ve walked away from our relationship with God.
Quite the contrary.
By not artificially limiting our understanding of agapé by filtering it through a contrived list of “dos” and “don’ts”, we are free to listen to the “still, small voice “of the Holy Spirit that dwells inseverably within us. And to recognize it in others, regardless of whatever “faith” (or non-faith) they call their own.
What is surprising is that the institutional church has so much difficulty in recognizing this. Or perhaps, the challenge simply lies in acknowledging it.
Whatever the reasons may be, the reality is that, particularly in western society, we are becoming more and more a “spiritual but not religious” society.
Atheists see this as a sign that we’re “outgrowing” religion. We’re not.
Literalists see it as a sign that we’re becoming morally corrupt. It’s not.
It’s a sign that, in spite of the best efforts of those who would prevent us, we’re becoming more spiritually mature.
That still, small voice is becoming louder.
And we’re listening.
As my friend John Shearman would say – halleluiah!